Lionel Messi Surpasses Pele | South America’s Highest Goal Scorer

Lionel Messi is now the top international goalscorer in South American history. Messi now has 79 total goals for the national team, surpassing Pele's record of 77. (Photo: @si_soccer/Twitter)

The record books in soccer have been forced open. Lionel Messi is now the top international goalscorer in South American history.

On Thursday, Messi achieved the honor with a hat-trick in Argentina’s World Cup qualifier, overtaking Brazilian legend Pele.

In addition, the 34-year-old scored every goal in Argentina’s 3-0 win against Bolivia. In front of 20,000 fans in Buenos Aires, Messi matched Pele opening the scoring in the 14th minute with a shot outside the box.

Consequently, Messi now has 79 total goals for the national team. Messi has also recorded his huge tally in 153 caps for Argentina, a player’s appearance in a game at the international level.

However, Pele netted his 77 goals in 92 official matches for Brazil.

Messi broke Pele’s record in the 64th minute, dribbling past the Bolivian defense before scoring. The Argentine completed his hat-trick with a rebound two minutes from the end.

“I waited a lot of time for this, I sought this, I dreamed about this,’ Messi said. ‘It is a single moment because of the way it happened, after so much wait.

“There was no better way to celebrate than being here. My mom, my brothers are here in the tribunes. They suffered a lot and today they are here celebrating. I am very happy.”

Tearfully, Messi celebrated Argentina’s Copa America win after the game. In addition, two months earlier, Messi lifted the trophy following a 1-0 win over Argentina’s chief rival, Brazil.

However, fans were allowed to attend the celebration after a 20-month pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Redemption

In the past, Messi has endured a complicated relationship with the Argentinian national team. A series of stinging defeats in World Cups and Copa Americas created the tension. However, that was until Messi led the team to the title against Brazil in July.

It was Messi’s first major trophy, with Argentina ending the country’s 28-year title drought. However, there is another nipping at Pele’s heels. Messi’s teammate Neymar sits behind Pele at third on the South American goal scorers list with 68.

Argentinas Pandemic Problems

Four members of the Argentina squad were deported from Brazil last week.

Brazilian public health agents and federal police officers invaded the pitch during Brazil and Argentina’s World Cup qualifier; within 10 minutes, they abandoned the game.

In addition, a few players allegedly entered Brazil illegally, breaking COVID-19 quarantine rules. Among the accused are Tottenham’s Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero and Aston Villa’s Emi Buendia and Emi Martinez.

According to reports, Argentina’s accused of falsifying documents. They failed to declare that the four players had come from the UK, risking deportation or quarantine per Brazil’s COVID-19 protocol.

The Great Pele

Pele revealed he had been in hospital to remove a tumor in his colon earlier this week. The three-time World Cup winner has been in hospital for six days and underwent surgery on Saturday.

In Brazil, according to reports, Pele was undergoing routine examinations in Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital; that is when the undisclosed issue was detected.

However, Pele’s business manager Joe Fraga claims the 80-year-old is not seriously ill.

‘Full battery of tests/scans/colonoscopy/blood etc,’ Fraga wrote in a message. ‘He doesn’t do everything in one day.’

Ironically, the icon didn’t want to alarm people and didn’t want to go to the hospital.

His Tweet downplayed the trip as well.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.